As a beginning runner, you will need to understand that not every run you go on will go perfectly. Some are wonderful; some aren’t. It’s simply the nature of the activity.
What often gets in the way of a pleasant, energizing run is some type of training error or mistake. No biggie. Most beginner mistakes are easily correctable.
Probably the most common newbie mistake is the simple fear that running (or to a lesser extent, walking) will hurt. Beginners have preconceived notions of leg pain, being out of breath and overall muscular discomfort. They fear not being good enough. Or measuring up to their friends.
Fear no more. A beginning running program can be done easily enough and without any undue discomfort or painful episodes. The key is avoiding some of the pitfalls all runners make when just starting out.
Here are some common mistakes beginners make—and easy solutions.
1. Too far. You were too ambitious and attempted to run two, three or four miles which was too great a distance. Your friends run that far every day, but you couldn’t even cover a mile. Trying to do so, was painful and discouraging.
Solution: Run by minutes, not miles. Don’t worry about how far you cover; merely run by time. Start off with two minutes of walking, followed by a minute or two of slow jogging. Alternate walking and jogging for 15 minutes and gradually progress from there. Eventually, you will be able to reduce the walking time.
2. Too fast. You tried to run a set distance in a certain time and flamed out. Trying to run fast hurt and left you wheezing and out of breath.
Solution: Slow down. When you run, run easily at a comfortable pace. You should be able to carry on a conversation with your running partner while running. If you can’t, you’re going too fast. Ease up. At this stage in your development, speed isn’t the goal. Fitness is. That comes with being able to sustain the activity.
3. It hurts. If even slow jogging just a minute or two hurts, you might not be ready for it quite yet.
Solution: Stick with walking for a good month or two (before running) to accustom your body to aerobic exercise. You need to get used to being on your feet for an extended period of time before starting to run. Just walk. Gradually increase your distance and pace as you become fitter.
4. You hated it. The run was not fun or pleasant at all. There was no runner’s high you have heard so much about. You’ve always hated running and still do. You remember your old high-school PE teacher punishing you with laps and all that negativity came flooding back the moment you started to run.
Solution: Out with the old, in with the new. This isn’t punishment. Running should be a relaxing, energizing time of day. Nobody is watching over you with a stopwatch or whistle. Chill out and think positive. Banish your old conceptions to the garbage bin. This is a new you.
5. You’re bored. You want to run, but find it boring.
Solution: Go to the Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail or one of our other beautiful parks or trail. Find a running partner who you enjoy spending time with. Take your dog. Enjoy the day. While running, try solving some problems that confront you. Or empty your brain and just enjoy some stress-free, relaxing time. Whatever you do, stay off a treadmill and/or a track—boring.
6. Too hot. Summer will be here before you know it and I can absolutely guarantee you it’s going to get brutally hot—way too hot to run at certain times of the day. Trying to fight the heat, makes running feel like agony.
Solution: Go early. It’s cooler in the morning and the air is fresher. For many runners, it’s the best time of day. If you can’t run or walk early in the cooler air, go in the evening when the sun goes down to avoid the worst of the heat.
7. You’re still too hot–even in the morning. Let’s face it, it’s hot all the time in Austin during the summer.
Solution: Wear as little as possible. Don’t wear sweatpants or tights; merely wear some lightweight, breathable running shorts and a light T-shirt. Don’t make the mistake that sweating a lot will get you in shape faster or burn more calories. It won’t. If it’s just too hot, use a treadmill.
8. Your feet hurt. They get hot and sweaty and you feel like your tennis or basketball shoes don’t provide enough cushioning. Chances are they don’t.
Solution: Buy a pair of running shoes. You must get running shoes and not just basketball, cross-trainers or tennis shoes. Running shoes are designed to cushion and support your feet. If you’re on a walking program, running shoes are ideal for walkers too. Go to one of the four RunTex locations for expert help in buying the best pair of running shoes for you.
9. The sidewalks are too hard on my body. You’re right about that: Sidewalks are too hard for daily running. The surface is also too uneven and often crowded with pedestrians. Sidewalks stink for running.
Solution: Go to Zilker Park or the Lady Bird Lake Trail where you can walk on dirt or grass which is the ideal surface for running. If a park or trail isn’t readily available, run facing traffic on lightly traveled roads. An asphalt road is much easier on your body than a sidewalk.
10. Your legs are sore afterward. The big thigh muscles on the front (quadriceps), lower leg muscles (calf and soleus) and back (hamstrings) are sore. You’re even stiff the next day.
Solution: Some initial soreness is normal. If you haven’t run for fitness before, your leg muscles will take a week or two to adapt to this new activity. After finishing your run, stretch your leg muscles for a few minutes. When you get home, gently ice your leg muscles and take some Advil or Aleve to ease the soreness.